The Little Translator 1:
”I’m making good progress here”, thought the Little Translator to himself, feeling a surge of hope as he sifted through the replies to his “Help needed” posting on Pros.com.
Many of the translators were sympathetic, and cited similar experiences, but there were few of any direct assistance. Others just read it and simply snorted, “Bloody novice – serves him right. In out of his depth, and probably bringing down the market price to boot”, and didn’t bother to reply, although naturally the Little Translator wasn’t to know this. There was one, however, who asked for more details - Allen Larkin, a British translator in the United States. This Allen even asked for the job to be sent to him so he could have a look. He then asked privately which agency it was, and the Little Translator told him. Five minutes later the phone rang, and the Little Translator was astonished to find it was him.
“….. I’ve done a few big jobs for Translations Anytime”, said Allen, “they’re a dodgy outfit, and no mistake. Bad payers, too - they still owe me 800 dollars from a year ago. And, Little Translator, this is no test, you know. It’s a real live job.”
The Little Translator was gobstruck. “WHAT? But that’s impossible. That’s not ethical. It’s a fraud, it’s … it’s not fair.”
“Happens all the time”, said Allen. “Especially with the likes of Fred Hollingsworth at Translations Anytime. He gets it off you for free, polishes it up a bit with someone for next to nothing as proofreading, which nearly always means heavy correction, and sells it on at a profit. As for fair, it’s an unfair world. It’s not fair that my neighbour’s thirteen-year old daughter got put up the duff by her uncle either, or that hundreds of people are killed every day all over the world for no reason other than that somebody hates their religion or their rulers or whatever, but - who said it had to be fair anyway?
Look, I do this kind of weird abbreviated technical-commercial stuff all the time, and I can do it for you if you like, and plus over here I have the advantage of the time zone, so I can spend most of the day on these 5,000-odd words and get it back to you around midday your time tomorrow, well in time for your 3 pm deadline, right?”
“Allen”, said the Little Translator, you’ve saved my bacon. But, er, how much will you charge me?”, he asked doubtfully.
“Well”, said Allen, “I must admit I have an idea to get my own back, prove to you he’s a fraud, AND get him to pay you too, so you might just break even on this one.”
“I’m so grateful”, said the Little Translator.
“Forget it”, replied Allen. “Gratitude’s a burden, revenge is a pleasure. Now listen, here’s what you have to do …”
Fred Hollingsworth was blowing smoke rings with his feet up on the desk the next day when the phone rang at Translations Anytime just before half-past two.
“Hello, Translations Anytime”, answered Fred, and added “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, like Martini”, giggling a little at his inane sales spiel.
“It’s Little Translator here, Mr. Hollingsworth. I’m terribly sorry to tell you I’ve failed your test, so I can’t send it to you”, said the Little Translator, running his mouse over the finished text Allen had sent him a few hours before. Allen had done a fine job, and had also pointed out a lot of useful information to him – “MO” meant “Maître d’Oeuvre” or project manager, “Mds” were “milliards”, “TTC” was “Toutes Taxes Comprises”, “m/place” was really “mise en place”, that sort of stuff, and he had recommended the Little Translator compare the original and translation, note down the vocabulary, and start compiling his own little dictionary for further use.
Fred’s feet came off the desk. “What? Are you kidding? Don’t tell me you haven’t done the job, er, the test, for God’s sake.”
The Little Translator smiled with his hand over the receiver, but stopped smiling to speak again. People can always tell when you’re smiling on the phone.
“No, it was just too tough for me, and I got to about page 10 before I gave up. Loads of stuff I’m not sure about. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be an in-house translator after all. I’ll maybe ring you back some day when I’ve studied a little more, so … I’ll be in touch, OK? Bye now ...”
“No, no, don’t ring off, wait”, shouted Fred. “Erm, it’s all right, we’ll, er, assess it for you anyway, send it to us right now, because the custom-, er, the proof-reading panel is ready to evaluate it.”
“No, Mr. Hollingsworth, it wouldn’t be right”, said the Little Translator sadly. “I failed your speed test, I failed it, I failed, I’ve made such a mess of it.”
“No, it’s all right, really, just send it right now. I need it, I need it now … for, erm, for it to be, ahem, to be, mm, proof-read, yes.”
“In my b-----ks”, the Little Translator found himself thinking. He paused. “Pay me for it, Fred”, he said quietly.
“PAY you? PAY you?” Fred laughed. “It’s a test, for Chrissakes. I can’t pay you for a …”
The phone went dead.
Ring-ring-ring went the Little Translator’s phone after a minute or so. “Little Translator here”, he said as he picked it up.
“What the hell did you hang up on me for?” demanded Fred hotly. “All I said was that …”
“Well, I’ll tell you, Fred”, said the Little Translator, “I have a terrible cause-effect psychomotor affliction, and whenever anyone says “I can’t” to me on the phone, all I can do is ring off. It’s hereditary, my parents have it too – nothing I can do about it, it’s something stronger than me, but there you go.”
He was beginning to feel in control now. Just then he remembered a scene from Mad Dog and Glory, where Robert de Niro, for once not playing a mobster but a wimpish police forensic scientist, nevertheless repels an attempted mugging in a park by summoning up the courage to take out his gun and shout: “You wanna play Dodge City wid ME, muddafugga?” He turned his attentions back to the hapless Fred.
“Look, look”, Fred was saying angrily, “why would I pay you for a test to work here? I can’t, see, so ….”
Click went the phone once more.
Again Fred rang back immediately. “OK, OK, don’t keep doing that, I’ll pay you, I’ll pay you. I’ll pay you x per word.”
“No, Fred”, said the Little Translator. “You will pay me 3x per word for the 5,248 words.”
“3x?” screeched Fred. “Are you crazy? I ca- … I … I … all right then, usual outsourcing conditions, 90 days end of month.”
The Little Translator was enjoying himself now. “No, Fred”, he said again. “I’ll send you the entire job, thoroughly checked over by expert associates, just as soon as I receive a fax this afternoon from you of a document from your bank confirming a transfer to my account. I suggest you toddle off and arrange that now. Sharpish. Meanwhile I’ll send you my bank details.”
Fred was beaten. “OK, OK, I’ll do it”, he said wearily.
“Oh, and just one more thing, Fred”, said the Little Translator. “Can you fly a plane?”
Fred was understandably puzzled. “A plane?” said Fred. “What do you mean, a plane? No, of course I can’t.”
The Little Translator sniggered as he put the phone down again.
A few hours later Fred faxed him confirmation of payment.
“Stupendous”, thought the Little Translator as he emerged from the shower and opened his wardrobe. “This calls for a Translator Celebration!”
| || || |